The Minnesota Vikings are in their third week of training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center (TCO) in Eagan, Minnesota. On Wednesday, the second preseason opponent of the purple and gold arrived, the Tennessee Titans. The Titans came to Eagan to prove they are still one of the more physical teams in the NFL.
The Vikings struggled against physical teams, especially the likes of the Eagles and Cowboys. So this was a good preseason test for Brian Flores’ defense as well as Kirk Cousins and the offense to see if they can match the physicality of Mike Vrabel’s team.
Day one of joint practice was dominated by defense and player absences. The defense had a very successful day even with Brian Asamoah out with injury. The defense was causing havoc, most plays from the Titans ended in tackles for loss or sacks. With Asamoah injured, undrafted rookie Ivan Pace Jr. took first-team reps alongside Jordan Hicks. Kevin O’Connell was impressed and had words of praise for him. “The way he has the athleticism to run sideline to sideline, cancel out some mistakes. If we lose a gap here or there, he’s shown to be able to get off blocks”. The defense was really solid, not giving up a lot of chunk plays, the Titans ran a two-minute drill and didn’t score, mainly due to Flores blitzing a majority of the time and forcing Titans QB Ryan Tannehill to check the ball down. Flores said, “ It’s not my defense, it’s theirs. So I want them to take ownership”.
The offense was missing Kene Nwangwu, Jordan Addison, TJ Hockenson, Jalen Nailor, and Brian O’Neill. These injuries forced guys like Brandon Powell and Thayer Thomas to play but both were decent, Powell made a few nice plays and Thomas caught almost everything in one on one’s. The Viking's offense was inconsistent, both Kirk Cousins and Nick Mullens threw picks on their first throw and Cousins missed Jefferson on a deep ball.
Special Teams was impressive though as Ryan Wright had a 90-yard punt during a special team period, the Vikings have also selected their kicker as Greg Joseph has beaten out rookie Jack Podlesny for the job.
Day two of joint practices was more physical as there were a few scuffles and a lot of talking between the two teams. Injuries continued to be an issue as Brian Asamoah, Jalen Nailor, and Jordan Addison sat out with injuries. During practice, Mekhi Blackmon left practice with an arm injury. The offense was sharp scoring on almost all drives with mostly backup receivers in place of Jordan Addison. Jalen Reagor, Trishton Jackson, Brandon Powell, and N’Keal Harry all took snaps in place of Addison. Harry was the most impressive, his tall frame allows him to be a red zone threat and he was making some nice grabs. The offensive line was a mixed bag, Christian Darrisaw when healthy is one of the best-left tackles in the NFL and he proved that in joint practices not letting anyone put a finger on Cousins. Garrett Bradbury the center on the other hand was rough. During a one-on-one blocking drill against Titans defensive tackle Teair Tart, the two came off the ball, then Tart gets Bradbury over-extended and then throws him to the ground. The interior of the Vikings O-line has been a problem over the past couple of seasons and Bradbury has been the main issue as he has been routinely blown off the ball which allows penetration which allows tackles for loss and sacks. He has been beaten routinely by defensive tackles and that is an issue either he has to solve or the team has to solve. One way or another if the Vikings want to be a well-rounded offense they have to be able to run the ball between the tackles. That is something Alexander Mattison does well but he can’t run if he’s on his back before he even hits the line of scrimmage. Bradbury got the last laugh though when Tart threw a punch at him and Tart got thrown out of practice.
Defensively they were once again good, Jordan Hicks was surprisingly good in pass coverage with multiple pass breakups. Corners Joejuan Williams and Andrew Booth Jr. had pass breakups as well. Danielle Hunter was phenomenal, recording three sacks. To finish practice Andrew Booth Jr. had an interception of Titans backup QB Malik Willis, then proceeded to fire it into the Titans bench area.
Overall, the Vikings matched the physicality of the Titans, there were coverage breakdowns and inconsistent offensive play but that is what camp is for and the Vikings hope to finish off these joint practices with Kevin O’Connell’s first preseason win as the purple and gold will play the Titans at 7 p.m. Saturday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
This article was written by Flag Family Media Intern Grant Hubbard